Pelosi offers support for Cuban protests
Aggrieved Cubans protesting government dysfunction gained a powerful voice on Monday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised the demonstrators’ bravery and condemned all efforts by the communist government to stifle rights of dissent.
“The call for freedom and basic rights by the people of Cuba peacefully taking to the streets and marching is an act of great courage,” Pelosi tweeted. “I support the Cuban people in their pursuit of liberty and condemn any violence or targeting of those exercising their rights.”
Pelosi is the latest figure to encourage the historic protests amid a long and growing list of U.S. lawmakers rushing to condemn the repressive government for failing its own citizens. The demonstrations — the largest in decades — erupted Sunday in cities across Cuba, where thousands of people took to the streets to protest dire economic conditions, including shortages of food and medicine, which have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Speaker’s statement followed a similar show of solidarity from President Biden, who issued a statement on Monday urging Cuba’s communist leaders to heed the protesters’ grievances.
“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected,” Biden said. “The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
The message does not appear to have swayed Cuban leaders in Havana.
On Monday, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel accused the United States of instigating the unrest through tough economic sanctions, which were tightened under former President Trump following efforts by the Obama administration to reestablish some diplomatic and economic ties. Díaz-Canel said the U.S. trade embargo has resulted in the “economic asphyxiation” of the Cuban people.
“Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me … and you want to present yourself as the big savior?” he said. “Lift the blockade … and then we will see what this people, that has achieved an immense social work despite what is practically a war economy, is capable of.”